Biographical data


Rumpf, Georg Ever(h)ard (or Eberhard) (called Rumphius)


(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 1: Cyclopaedia of collectors)

(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 5: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Supplement I)

(Source: Flora Malesiana ser. 1, 8: Cyclopaedia of collectors, Supplement II)


Born: probably in 1628, Münzenberg or Wetterau, Germany. Died: 1702, Ambon, Moluccas.



Attended the gymnasium at Hanau and subsequently enlisted in a German legion which was said to be destined for service in the Ionian Sea. This proved to be make-believe only, as its real destination was Brazil, viz in Dutch service. When on the way from Texel (a Dutch Wadden island) to Portugal, the ship fell into the hands of the Portuguese and for Rumphius this adventure ended in a stay of 3 years in that country, where his first interest in The East was raised. Subsequently he returned to Hanau, staying from 1649-52, his occupation in this period being unknown. In 1652 he once more enlisted in Dutch service, as a soldier of the E.I.C. Mid-1653 he arrived in Java and in the same year was transferred to Ambon; in 1657 he was appointed Second Merchant (from then onwards in the Civil Service) and in 1662 Merchant. About that time he began to apply himself to the study of the flora and fauna of Ambon and circumjacent islands, continuing his studies till he went incurably blind in 1670. His investigations resulted in some famous works.1 The manuscript of his ‘Herbarium Amboinense’ fell a prey to the sea, but fortunately Governor General Camphuis had a copy made beforehand.

He is commemorated in the genus Rumphia L. and in many other plant species.



His books, collections and manuscripts were destroyed for the greater part by a heavy fire on January 11, 1687. Probably but a small part of his herbarium is preserved, evidently some of it in Herb. Florence [FI],2 and partly transferred from there to Vienna [W]. Martelli mentions2 that the Rumphian species were bought in 1682 by Grand-duke Cosimo III de’Medici. Later all the Grand-ducal collections were transferred to the Museum di Fisica e Storia Naturale di Firenze (Florence) founded in 1778. The specimens were mishandled because the later custodians did not know of the origin nor of the importance of the collections; hence they were so mixed that it became impossible to find out which are Rumphian and which are not. The original labels were destroyed and the new labels did not indicate the collector, the date, and the place of the collection.

The only label of any importance that Martelli saw in his student days was that the collections were ancient, ‘Antica Collezione del Museo’. However among the fruiting specimens Beccari detected two species of Calamus which were certainly of the Rumphian collection. When Martelli intended to make a closer examination of these collections he experienced such obstruction that he had to give up the attempt.

For the location of his MSS etc., see ‘Rumphius Gedenkboek 1702-1902’ (Kolon. Mus. Haarlem, 1902) which contains a chapter on that subject. Some drawings of Ambon plants, made through the intermediary of Chastelein (see there), are in the Bot. Dept of the British Museum; they were probably bought with W. ten Rhyne’s effects (see there). These, mostly coloured, drawings were probably made for Rumphius. Also drawings at the University of Amsterdam. Some of his letters were published.3



(1) E.g. ‘Het Amboinsch Kruidboek’ I-VII incl. the ‘Auctuarium’, revised and edited by J. Burman (1741-55); ‘Amboinsche Rariteitkamer’ (Amsterdam 1705; reprint. in 1741); several MSS (for detailed data cf. Rumphius Gedenkboek l.c. sub Biogr. Data).

‘Het Amboinsch Kruidboek’ (= Herbarium Amboinense) led to the following papers:

O. Stickman: ‘Herbarium Amboinense’ (Linnaeus, Amoenit. Acad. 4, 2nd ed. 1788, p. 112-143).

J. Burman: ‘Index alter in omnes tomes Herbarii Amboinensis G. E. Rumphii, quem de novo recensuit, auxit, et emendavit’ (Lugd. Bat. etc. 1769).

Fr. (Buchanan) Hamilton: ‘Commentary on the Herbarium Amboinense’ (Mem. Wern. Nat. Hist. Soc. Edinburgh 52, 1824, p. 307-383).

A.W.E.Th. Henschel: ‘Clavis botanica et zoologica. Accedunt Vita G. E. Rumphii, Plinii indici, specimenque materiae medicae amboinensis’ (Vratislaviae 1833).

An incomplete manuscript ‘Clavis Herbarii Amboinensis’ of H. Zollinger in the Buitenzorg Libr.

J.K. Hasskarl: ‘Neuer Schlüssel etc. (Abh. Nat. Ges. Halle 9, 1866, p. 145-389).

E.D. Merrill: ‘An interpretation of Rumphius’s Herbarium Amboinense’ (Bur. Sci. Publ. 9, 1917, p. I-595, map).

J.J. Smith: ‘The Amboina Orchidaceae collected by C.B. Robinson’ (Philip. Journ. Sci. C. Bot. 12, 1917, p. 249-262).

For data on the drawings see also Cl. Nissen, ‘Die botanische Buchillustration’ 1951, vol. 2, p. 157-158.

(2) U. Martelli: ‘Notizie sopra l’Erbario Rumphio’ (Boll. Soc. Bot. Ital. 1902, p. 90); ‘Le collezione di G.E. Rumph acquistate dal Granduca Cosimo IIIl de’ Medici, una volta esistenti net Museo di Fisica e Storia Naturale di Firenze. Estratto da un catalogo manoscritto dal G. Targiono Tozzetti per cura di U. Martelli’ (Firenze 1903; containing extracts from a manuscript catalogue prepared by Prof. G. Targioni-Tozzetti in 1763; Dr C.X. Furtado was so kind as to translate the story of the collection).

A palm, coll. Rumphius, is cited in Annals Bot. Gard. Calcutta XII, l, Palms part 11, p. 166.

(3) In ‘India Literata’ (Appendix to M.B. Valentinius, Historia simplicium reformata, Francofurti a/M 1716).


biographical data:

Haller, Bibl. Bot. 1, 1771, p. 615-617; Autobiographic ‘Peregrinatio’ in Rumphius, Herb. Amboin., preceding part 6; Henschel in ‘Clavis Rumphiana etc. l.c. sub l; Blume, Rumphia l, p. 7-9, and l.c. 2, p.9-13; P.A. Leupe: ‘Georgius Everardus Rumphius, Ambonsch natuurkundige der 17e eeuw’ (1871, Kon. Akad. v. Wetensch. Amsterdam); Album der Natuur 1885, p. 1 seq.; ‘Rumphius Gedenkboek 1702-1902’ (Kolon. Mus. Haarlem 1902, 221 pp.); Wittrock, Icon. Bot. Berg., 1903, p. 155 and l.c. 2, 1905, p. 168, 173; J.D. Milner, Catalogue portraits at Kew, 1906, p. 93; Sirks, Ind. Nat. Onderzoek, Amsterdam 1915, p. 25-61 (an article in English based on this chapter Of Sirks’s book was published by L.M. Perry in Honig & Verdoorn, Science and Scientists in the Netherlands Indies, 1945, p. 295-308); Encyclop. N.I. 3, 1919, p. 640-645; Trop. Nederland 5, 1932/33, p. 307, 333; Backer, Verkl. Woordenb., 1936, H. Engel, Alphabetical list of Dutch zoological cabinets etc. (Bijdr. t. d. Dierk. 27, 1939), p. 310-311; Ned. Kruidk. Arch. 50, 1940, p. 199-200; l.c. 51, 1941, p. 367; l.c. 52, 1942, p. 404; G. Ballintijn: ‘De blinde ziener van Ambon’ (de Haan, 1944); Flora Malesiana Bull. no 5, July 1949, p. 129 (monument); Indon. J. Nat. Sc. 108, 1952, p. 161-172; Taxon 1, 1952, p. 101-110; H.C.D. de Wit (ed.): ‘Rumphius Memorial Volume’ (Amsterdam 1959); Biologist 47, 1965, p. 42-54, 3 fig.